Tuesday, November 17, 2015
Court of Appeal Upholds Conviction in Beating of Homeless Man
Panel Says Warrant to Search for Defendant’s Guns Was Lawful Years After He Registered Them
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Court of Appeal for this district has upheld the conviction of a Malibu resident sentenced to seven years in prison for beating a homeless man with a tire iron.
Div. Eight Friday rejected Young Lee’s contention that the testimony of a key prosecution witness should have been suppressed as the fruit of an illegal search. The panel said a warrant authorizing a search of the defendant’s residence, in the course of which police learned of the witness, was supported by probable cause.
Jurors found Lee guilty of assault with a deadly weapon, with great bodily injury, after trial before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Henry Hall. In imposing the maximum sentence, Hall cited the vulnerability of the victim, Donald Bolding; the extreme violence of the attack; the use of a weapon, and the evidence the defendant attempted to intimidate David Lee, a prosecution witness.
Police who responded to the scene of the June 2011 attack found Bolding beaten and bleeding. He said he had been panhandling near the 101 Freeway’s Vermont off-ramp when two men attacked him.
He recognized the one wielding the tire iron as someone he had unsuccessfully solicited a handout from earlier, as the man was driving a car with a number of people in it.
A witness at the scene told police he had spoken to that attacker, who said he was angry that Bolding had shown the man’s wife an obscene tattoo. The witness described the man’s vehicle, which police traced to a rental agency.
Bolding and other witnesses subsequently identified the man as Young Lee, who had traveled to South Korea while the case was under investigation. He retained counsel after learning that a warrant had been issued for his arrest, and was taken into custody at Los Angeles International Airport upon his return in January 2012.
Two weeks after the arrest, police obtained a warrant to search the Malibu house where the defendant had been living. The warrant expressly allowed them to search for two specific firearms that had been registered to Lee in 1998—three years before he was convicted on gun and drug charges—plus other evidence related to gun possession or the attack on Bolding.
There were several people present when the house was searched, one of whom told police he was familiar with the Bolding attack, but was not present at the time. He identified David Lee as one of those in the car; police ultimately found Lee and interviewed him more than a year after the search.
David Lee ultimately testified against the defendant, who he said had told him “not to report this to the police,” and that if he did, he “would cut my – my child’s, my mother’s, my own and my wife’s throat.” The defendant threatened to kill him “five or six times at least” in connection with the case, he testified.
In moving to block David Lee’s testimony, the defense contended that the warrant was based on “stale information,” since there was no evidence as to what Young Lee had done with the guns in the previous 15 years or that he actually resided at the Malibu address.
Judge Edmund W. Clarke Jr. agreed that the warrant was invalid, but denied the motion to suppress on the grounds that the police had acted in good faith reliance on the warrant, and that the prosecution was “not precluded from using the witness who they found by talking to someone else at the premises.”
Justice Elizabeth Grimes, in her opinion Friday for the Court of Appeal, said the warrant was valid.
Clarke, the justice said, “ignored the evidence that current records also showed that defendant did not dispose of the guns after he was convicted, which is prima facie evidence he continued to possess them.” Grimes explained that “[w]here the crime is illegal possession of a firearm, current records showing defendant remained the registered owner after his conviction is sufficient to establish ‘a fair probability’ that he currently possesses them.”
The fact that the defendant did not own the Malibu home was irrelevant to the warrant’s validity, Grimes went on to say, because the defendant had told police he lived there, and Department of Motor Vehicles records showed the same.
Attorneys on appeal were Cyn Yamashiro and Philip Kent Cohen for the defendant and Deputy Attorneys General Victoria B. Wilson, Noah P. Hill and Jessica C. Owen for the prosecution.
The case is People v. Lee, 15 S.O.S. 5434.
Copyright 2015, Metropolitan News Company